W. Ron Allen, Chairman of Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe

Reno Keoni Franklin, Chairman Emeritus of The Kashia Band of Pomo Indians

Aaron Payment, Chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Our lands, waters, and tribal communities are currently under siege from biodiversity loss and climate change impacts. As tribal leaders, we recognize that threats to nature and our climate are direct threats to our tribal nations. Progress to safeguard our wildlife and lands in the U.S. has slowed to a near standstill in recent years.

The Trump Administration has taken unprecedented actions to eliminate protections for critical conservation areas and species. Protected areas serve a crucial role in conserving biodiversity, culturally important ecosystems, and mitigating climate change impacts.

President-elect Joe Biden and Congresswoman Deb Haaland are taking direct action to safeguard our environment through an initiative called Thirty by Thirty (30x30) to conserve at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and oceans by 2030.

Haaland and Udall 30x30

We as tribal leaders believe that protecting at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters is necessary to safeguard our world by protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change impacts.

See related statement: "Tribal Leader Statement on 30x30 Policy"

Tribal nations are key to the success of this initiative as we are intrinsically linked, both presently and historically, to existing and prospective protected areas. Tribal nations are the original stewards of these lands and waters and have been the most effective managers and protectors of biodiversity since time immemorial.

Globally, lands managed, stewarded, or held in tenure by Indigenous peoples contain over 80 percent of the world’s remaining biodiversity.

The 30x30 policy serves as a vitally important opportunity to safeguard the environment, tribal cultural values, strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship, and uphold tribal sovereignty and self-determination.

In order for the 30x30 initiative to succeed, we call on federal implementers to uphold tribal sovereignty, ensure meaningful government-to-government consultation, ensure that tribes have a key leadership seat at the policymaking table, provide sufficient resources to ensure tribal capacity to safeguard lands and waters and build in evaluation mechanisms to ensure that protected areas are serving the interests of tribes. ‘Free, prior, and informed consent’ of tribal nations is a foundational requirement for the success of 30x30, as is ensuring that tribal rights to fish, hunt, gather, manage their lands, and other relevant land and water uses are not impeded.

We, the undersigned tribal leaders, convened to outline specific recommendations for federal government officials to ensure the early inclusion of tribal leaders in this initiative and the free, prior, and informed consent of tribal nations.

We call on our fellow tribal leader colleagues to join us in supporting these recommendations to ensure that tribal sovereignty and the health of our lands, waters, and communities is secured for future generations.

We call on our conservation community colleagues to commit to a new approach to their work with tribes. Too often in our history, the conservation community and tribes have come into conflict.

The history of conservation in the United States began with human rights violations, including the displacement, massacre, and assimilation of tribal peoples to make way for the first National Parks: Yellowstone and Yosemite.

In the modern-day, the divide between the work of the environmental community and the priorities of tribes persists. Too often, the environmental community seeks to engage with tribes to support their own narrow goals without regard for the complex sovereign objectives and priorities of tribal nations.

Despite this fact, tribes have often been willing partners with our conservation colleagues.

However, we call on the conservation community to take serious measures to improve the way they do business with tribes. We encourage our conservation partners to examine and come to terms with their own history of human rights abuses, to ensure that conservation organizations demonstrate true partnership with tribes, and to work flexibly with us early and often on any and all initiatives that impact our lands, waters, animals, plants, sacred sites, economies and other interests.

Together, we can ensure that we protect at least thirty percent of our lands and waters by 2030, strengthen tribal sovereignty, and uphold tribal trust and treaty obligations.

We look forward to working with the new administration on a ‘nation-to-nation’ basis on this initiative. We also look forward to working hand in hand, in good faith, with our conservation colleagues toward a more respectful and inclusive conservation agenda.

W. Ron Allen is Chairman of Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
Leonard Forsman is Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe
Reno Keoni Franklin is Chairman Emeritus of The Kashia Band of Pomo Indians
Aaron Payment is Chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians